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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies


Introduction to Persian at Cambridge

Over 100 million people speak Persian worldwide. It is the official language of Iran (Farsi), Afghanistan (Dari) and Tajikistan (Tajik). There is a long history, too, of Persian in India and it is still taught in many universities in India and Pakistan. 

Persian is perhaps most famous for its fine epic and lyric poetry. It is also the second language of Islam with many important works of history, literature, philosophy and Sufism (Islamic mysticism). Like true masterpieces, these works keep their appeal; their depth, scope and wit continue to fascinate us, opening vistas on the societies they address and reflect.

In addition, learning Persian gives you unique access to Iran. This key country in the Middle East, is both politically important and a developing market, so a knowledge of Persian opens up a range of career opportunities, including international relations, development, and a range of commercial options. It may also lead to further academic study in this fascinating language and culture. Studying Persian will give you the opportunity to spend all or part of your year abroad in Iran, and to develop your language skills while learning more about Iranian culture and society.

Persian has changed little over time and uses the same language for speaking and writing. This makes it a straightforward language to learn. We aim to enable you to communicate with the native speakers, to read the great works of Persian literature alongside modern books and media, and to follow Persian films without subtitles. 

Be aware that, while Persian uses the same alphabet as Arabic, the two languages are not closely related.

You will study Persian as part of a Middle Eastern Studies degree, studying the language in the context of the culture and history of the broader region. Persian must be combined with another Middle Eastern or European language in Years 1 and 2.

You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.

Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.

The heart is a thousand stringed instrument that can only be tuned with love.

You may have seen words like these on Instagram accounts of 'inspirational quotes' (in fact that's where we found them). You may not realise that they're centuries old and taken from the glorious poetry of Persian poets Rumi, Omar Khayyam and Hafez, whose works celebrate life, seek for meaning, open controversial debates and proclaim the joys of wine, food and love. Studying Persian at Cambridge opens up this world for you, giving you access to one of the greatest canons of world literature, in the original language.